What is a Salesforce Booking System?

Online booking software is a way for customers to make bookings with your business. Whether your business is an activity centre, a tour operator or even a course provider, there is no doubt your need for an online booking system.

However, there’s more to a successful online booking system than just helping your customer make their booking, because good customer relationship management plays an essential role in improving the customer experience, driving repeat sales and understanding your client base.

There are countless technologies available which enable tracking and analysis, but Salesforce is amongst the very best. But what is a Salesforce enabled booking system, and how can it improve productivity, boost sales and help you manage your staff? Join us as we explain all.

 

What is Salesforce?salesforcelogo

Salesforce is a suite of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools designed to help businesses big and small dramatically improvetheir customer service, retention rates, purchase analysis and much, much more. Available on a rolling contract, Salesforce is a class leading product.

Utilised by some of the biggest businesses in the world from Coca-Cola to Sony, it’s a highly respected and widely used platform. CRM’s are known to improve customer retention by as much as 27% and Salesforce appointment booking customers report a 39% increase in sales.

 

How does a Salesforce enabled booking system work?

By combining Saleforce’s analytical tools with your online booking software, you can see more information at a glance than you ever could before. Automatically generated analytics bring together information that’s more than of mere interest, but of vital importance for a business which wants to drive up customer retention.

For the customer, the experience remains much the same; they visit your website, and enjoy a secure booking experience. However, from the back end, you have access to an unprecedented number of tools that can help your business move forward in ways previously unattainable.

 

What features does Salesforce have?

Salesforce pride themselves on offering a complete suite of business applications to monitor and manage everything from sales leads to customer complaints. Here’s what you can expect from Salesforce’s suite:

  • Sales Cloud: Salesforce automation tools and CRM
  • Service Cloud: Class leading tools for customer service and help desks
  • Community Cloud: Tools for collaboration between customers, partners and employees
  • Wave Analytics: Serious analytical data for every booking, website visit, email interactions and more.
  • App Cloud: A development platform for creating cloud-based applications
  • IOT Cloud: A connected device platform for the next major wave of technology, the Internet of Things
  • Commerce Cloud: Digital commerce, point of sale and order management for your business

Each of these services can be taken individually or together, but there’s no doubting the utility of such services for your business.

 

How does Salesforce integrate with BookingLive?

BookingLive is our award winning secure online booking software, and with support for over 50 different integrations, it’s a deeply customisable experience. We’ve long understood the value of Salesforce’s software and since then built Salesforce support right into our software.

With BookingLive and Salesforce, your staff can log in to BookingLive using their Salesforce ID and even launch a booking process from within Salesforce itself.

Using both services together, BookingLive and Salesforce help to empower your customers to book, whilst Salesforce’s world class analytics, support and tracking helps you to deliver better service, business growth and stronger online sales.

To find out more about Salesforce, visit their website here. To find out more about BookingLive, sign up for a free demo or take a tour of the features of our amazing booking platform.

Custom Booking System vs. BookingLive

As a business that takes bookings, you’ll know that it’s no longer enough to only take bookings over the phone. The way that customers book, and expect to book, has changed dramatically over the last decade – with a huge proportion now expecting online booking as standard, rather than an option.

An online booking system not only benefits your customers but also your business – saving your staff time and business money. However, when it comes to picking an online booking software that suites you, things can get a little confusing.

On one hand you’ve got, BookingLive, our award winning solution for businesses big and small. On the other? Custom booking systems. In this guide, we’ll share with you the pros and cons of each.

Custom Booking Software: Advantages and Disadvantages

Custom booking solutions are built from the ground up by a team of developers for your business. With your guidance, they’ll build a platform designed to work across whichever platforms you deem necessary.

Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a custom booking platform:

Pros:buying online

  • Designed with your demands in mind – By having a booking platform custom built, you’ll be sure that the features you require are included in your system.
  • Efficient – Rather than bloated with features, a custom booking platform can be as barebones as you need it to be.
  • Upfront payment – Whilst BookingLive charges a small monthly fee for using the platform, a custom booking system is only paid for once.

Cons:

  • Inflexible – Once built, your platform is incapable of change without significant coding work. This can result in your platform becoming outdated rather quickly.
  • Expensive – Custom booking platforms are typically expensive endeavours, requiring a great amount of man hours in order to incorporate even the most basic of features expected by customers, like secure payment gateways.
  • Lack of support – Unlike BookingLive, your custom booking platform will have no support, so if something goes wrong, you’ll be short any immediate help.

 

BookingLive Online Booking Software: Advantages and Disadvantages

BookingLive provides online booking software, designed by our team of expert developers and built with years of experience supplying a  variety of businesses with secure booking platforms, from activity centres to local authorities. Easy to install, regularly updated and with support for every major platform, it’s a hugely compelling option for booking business of all kinds.

Here’s the advantages and disadvantages of BookingLive’s software for your business:

Pros:

  • Wide range of configuration options – Unlike a custom booking platform, BookingLive is extremely flexible with what it allows you to do, with a choice of plugins and configuration options available you can customise your booking platform to fit any need.
  • Trusted by thousands of businesses – Whether you’re an activity centre, local government or course provider (or any other industry we work with) BookingLive is a trusted way for customers to book online. In fact, it’s so trusted, 9 out of 10 would recommend it.
  • Expert support included – Our excellent support team are always on hand to help with whatever issues you may have with your system. From setting up, to your day to day operations, we’re ready to help.
  • Secure – At BookingLive, we take security extremely seriously, which is why BookingLive is built to deliver a secure booking environment for your customers.
  • Scalable – Our price plans ensure that businesses of all sizes are able to afford an award winning booking platform. Our servers are SSL-encrypted to ensure that all the data that is passed from the web server and browser remains private. We also ensure that our servers have excellent up time and file storage, to give your business superb scalability going forward.

Cons:

  • Monthly subscription fee – Unlike a custom built booking platform, BookingLive is only available on a rolling monthly contract. Our studies have found this to be the preferred payment method, however, some may prefer to buy outright.

 

To find out more about BookingLive, take a tour of our features or sign up for a free demo.

 
bookinglive

Defining Project Goals and Objectives for Activity Centres

The first step to success within any business is to define the goals and objectives that you’d like to see achieved. It is never a great idea to jump into action with a goal, if you only have a few rough plans on the topic. So taking the time to define project goals is utterly essential in helping to see a project through to completion.

A huge proportion of businesses failings can be traced back to the planning phase, when goals exceed objectives. Badly planned goals and objectives, or goals without objectives along the way, could potentially push projects off course, lead to personality clashes and even into debt.

But what are project goals and objectives, and how would you go about defining them?  Within this blog post we will be exploring how they can help your activity centre move positively, providing you with real life examples.

 

So, what are Goals and Objectives?

Of course, you know the traditional definitions of
‘goals’ and ‘objectives’, but within business they take on a slightly different role. Put simply, goals are the ‘what’, whilst the objectives are the ‘how’ this will lead to your goals.

Goals – The broad statements

We’re all familiar with goals, they give us targets to hit and aspirations to aim for. For an activity centre, some of your goals might look something like:

  • Increase repeat bookings by 15% over the next 12 months.
  • Encourage a 50% increase in visits to the website, with a 10% boost to conversions.
  • Transition away from phone-based booking and towards an online booking platform.

Setting project goals like this is an essential marker which you can judge your activity centres achievements by. You might have multiple, specific goals or just one broad goal. Either way, it’s important not to confuse goals with objectives.

Objectives – How you’ll achieve goalsproject targets

Objectives are the specific statements that will help support and actualise the goals you’ve set. Every goal will sport a number of objectives, and put simply, objectives are how you’ll achieve your goals.

You’ll find many sources suggesting that you should always start your objectives with an action verb, and whilst we see the value in this, it’s not entirely necessary. If you’d prefer to do otherwise, feel free to, but in the examples below we are following the structure of creating objectives to support achieving the overall project goals.

 

Project objective examples:

Goal 1: Increase repeat bookings by 15% over the next 12 months.

Objectives:

  • Create an email campaign to target one-time bookers with your company.
  • Design a special offer for existing clients to encourage repeat bookings.
  • Compare how the competition encourages repeat bookings and implement their most effective measures.

 

Goal 2:  Encourage a 50% increase in visits to the website, with a 10% boost to conversions

Objectives:

  • Implement a paid social media campaign to encourage visits to the homepage.
  • Launch a blog with valuable information to boost visits & SEO.
  • Investigate A/B testing on product pages for increased conversions.

 

Goal 3: Transition away from phone-based booking and towards an online booking system.

Objectives:

  • Identify leading online booking platforms
  • Compare the feature sets of online booking platforms before picking one
  • Launch an email & social media campaign to encourage bookings through the website, drawing attention to the ease and simplicity of booking online

If you’re having trouble defining objectives, take into account four main areas: quality, score, time and money. It’s then possible to build a multifaceted objective quickly.

 

Timeframes

Another aspect of project objectives that should be noted is that; whilst goals might have a loose timeframe of a year, objectives should have a much specific and rigid timeframe in place, in order to achieve the project goals. So it’s all about planning the small steps in order to achieve the overall goal.

Let’s use an example of a goal and its objectives from earlier:

Goal: Increase repeat bookings by 15% over the next 12 months

Objectives:

  • Create an email campaign to target one-time bookers with your company
  • Design a special offer for existing clients to encourage repeat bookings
  • Compare how the competition encourage repeat bookings and implement their most effective measures

In this example, the timeframe for this project management goal is included already. However, defining objective time frames can be a little trickier. As a rule of thumb, however, we recommend that you give yourself until a third of the way through your goal timeline to complete your objectives.

With the remaining two thirds, you’ll be able to see the effect that your objectives have on your goal, and be free to course correct if something isn’t working out as you’d intended.

 

Why is this valuable?

By placing an emphasis on this dichotomy, it becomes clear how you should go out and achieve your goals. Merely setting goals is rarely enough to see a project through to completion, especially if you’re delegating to a team.

By dividing goals into individual objectives, both you and your team know exactly what needs to be achieved and how you plan to achieve it.

Whilst it’s true that many businesses make use of this system, it does little to diminish just how valuable it can be for a fledgling activity centre, attempting to carve out a niche in a crowded market.

Why do your Customers Prefer to Book Online?

From events to commerce, the way that people learn about products and buy them has changed forever, thanks to the rise of home broadband and mobile internet. Whilst buying online was once seen as a risky proposition, secure payment gateways and billions of successful transactions has meant that when it comes to booking or buying, going online is now many people’s first choice.

For a business which relies on bookings from customers, this change could have snuck up on you. Whilst there’s nothing inherently wrong with picking up the phone and booking directly with a member of your team, more and more customers of all ages are abandoning the traditional methods in return for online booking systems like BookingLive.

Here are three reasons why your customers may prefer to book online:

  • It’s where customers do their research

The internet age has brought with it the ability to instantly compare in-depth research.

Today’s customers know exactly what they want and have all the tools at their fingertips to find it. Naturally, before your customers buy anything, they’re doing their research.

Should they find what they want, the next step is to book it. It’s at this stage that the value of a secure online booking system comes in to play. Traditionally, your potential customer would then have to go find a phone, call your number, hope that a member of your team picks up and then explain to them exactly what they want to book and at what time.

It’s a system which introduces complication and uncertainty at every turn. By moving to an online booking platform, your customer can go from the product page to purchasing it in just a few clicks, effortlessly removing the complications inherent to phone-based bookings and boosting ‘impulse’ purchases.

  • Online booking can be done anytime, anywhere

mobile and online booking systemOne of the biggest drawbacks of phone-based booking systems is that whilst they’re a more personal experience, they’re reliant on two people to make the booking work. Naturally, that complicates matters a great deal.

On your end, the hours you can take bookings between are limited by the hours you have staff working and further limited by the numbers of calls you can take at any given time. That presents an issue for your potential customer, who then has to bend their schedule around your office hours.

With an online booking platform like BookingLive, customers can book at any time, on any platform, from anywhere in the world. Whether they’re on their smartphone in the pub, on the tablet in the airport or at their desk during lunch, your customers can book quickly and easily.  Expand

  • Online booking is a shareable experience

Social networks and instant messaging have fundamentally affected the way we communicate with friends, family and colleagues when we’re apart from one another. ‘Sharing’ has become the norm as we ping links, videos and stories back and forth.

As a business that relies on bookings, you’ll know that many customers book in pairs or email resized copygroups, complicating the booking process. Online booking platforms allow your potential customers to share their booking with whomever they wish, greatly simplifying their experience and potentially driving more sales to your business.

Of course, it should go without saying that whilst these are obvious benefits to the customer, there are a great many other features which have helped to drive online booking adoption at such a remarkable rate. From live availability to built-in booking on social media platforms, online booking has taken the guesswork, uncertainty and stress out of booking, making it the #1 choice for customers in 2017.

 

To learn more about our online booking software, contact a member of BookingLive and find out how a online booking system can transform your businesses online presence.

The Importance of a Secure Booking System

As we start 2017, the status of our online security has never been more important. Huge hacks have dominated the news cycle over the last few years on companies, organisations and individuals – as notable as the Sony Pictures, the DNC, the World Anti-Doping Agency and even Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg…

Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo of him celebrating Instagram reaching their 500 million user milestone. In the background of this image was his laptop, with tape over his webcam and microphone. Why? To prevent hackers attacking his webcam, hackers do this by using attachments that contains malware. Once these files are opened the hacker will have access to the functions on the computer, including the webcam and microphone meaning that anything done or said in front of the computer would be heard/seen by the hacker.

Put simply, the security of what we do online is now at the very forefront of how we all think.
However, even with those security fears booking online is now such an established part of our lives with many of us using it on a regular basis, it’s almost impossible to imagine going without it.

Clearly, a secure online booking system is required to help mitigate the uncertainty that surrounds buying and booking online in this day and age. BookingLive is a solution, but how does BookingLive’s online booking software ensure a secure booking environment, and do customers really care about security as much as we believe?

 

Why secure online booking is utterly essential

Shockingly, 91% of us perceive public WiFi as unsecure, and yet 89% of us still use it anyway. Free public WiFi has gone from something that few of us connect to, to an essential part of our everyday lives.

We use it in coffee shops, transport, hotels and just about anywhere in pubic – despite the fact that almost all of us don’t believe it’s secure. Amazingly, 42% of us still put our bank card details in whilst on public WiFi. All of which means that today, millions of us are booking things over unsecured networks.

So, when things go wrong, who do people blame? Themselves, the WiFi provider and where they booked for. Unfortunately, customers sometimes do not understand that the business didn’t take the card details, the payment gateway did. In BookingLive’s software we don’t keep any form of card details.

As mentioned earlier, people use public Wi-Fi everywhere – despite knowing if it’s secure or not. Many people now have their mobile able to connect to Wi-Fi wherever it’s available. However connecting to Wi-Fi that may not be secure will make the data stored on your device liable to be harmed. There is a solution to protect you on public Wi-Fi. If you have worked in a large company before you may be aware of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and what they do. VPNs encrypt and protect your data as it travels from a server to your device, decrypting it at the other end. This will help protect you on public Wi-Fi by preventing hackers from capturing personal information. VPNs may not be as easy to install as antivirus software but it is worth it in the long run.

That common misconception can lead to instant social media complaints and swift blow to the public perception of your business. In more serious cases, threats of legal action and loss of business can occur for something which, essentially, wasn’t your fault.secure online booking system

By offering secure bookings, your business gains instant credibility and trustworthiness. As a business, those are two things that money simply can’t buy, especially if you’re based exclusively online. It can take years to build up a reputation, only to potentially see it destroyed by a booking platform that wasn’t secure. It can take years to build up a reputation, so the last thing you would want is to have that destroyed by not having a secure booking system.

Perhaps most interesting of all, is the fact that studies have found customers will actually move services or businesses to get better online security systems. Although not directly linked to secure online booking, it remains telling that 70% of consumers said that they would switch hotels for greater security, whilst 68% and 30% respectively said they’d switch cafes or change airlines for it.

Clearly then, the best booking system not only helps your client book online, but keeps them secure in the process.

 

Of course, there are ways that customers can mitigate their chances of falling into cybercrime; one of the most common ways for people to stay secure online is to keep your computers antivirus protection up-to-date.  Antivirus software is a program that makes your system secure from worms, harmful viruses and attacks through scanning process. It helps identify websites and files that could contain harmful programs before they are able to enter the computer and block them from being downloaded to your computer.

Another simple, yet effective way to ensure that you are secure online is to use strong passwords, and a password manager. Strong passwords are something that many websites, and programmes, are making you as standard, by ensuring your password includes an upper case letter, a number and a minimum of six characters. They also advise don’t use the same password, but how do you remember all the passwords for all the logins you have? Using a password manager will enable you to put all of your passwords in one database, meaning that you only have to remember one password! A reliable password safe is KeePass. KeePass is free and encrypted with secure encryption algorithms.  This will prevent you having the same password for every login.

 

Security from front to back

When you sign up for BookingLive, you’re signing up for a secure online booking platform.

It begins with SSL certificates on your booking page creating a secure environment from which your customers can make their purchase. SSL certificates are tiny data files which bind a cryptographic key to your organisation’s details, which allows for secure connections between your customer and your server – protecting credit card details, data transfers, logins and more.

From there, we offer the widest range of secure payment solutions of any online booking platform. Hugely popular and deeply respected platforms like PayPal and Sage Pay are supported, but that’s not all. To find our full list of payment gateways we use, head over to out integrations page. Whilst there, you’ll find we support WorldPay, Sagepay and many more.

If you’d prefer not to use hosted payment gateways, then we’ll work with you and your requirements to set up a dedicated server with PCI compliance as the preferred secure payment method.

Of course, those are just some of the top tier security features that BookingLive offers. Designed to offer a complete, feature rich and secure booking method for businesses of all sizes, BookingLive works for any business. Whether you’re a small tour operator or a large cooking school, certain requirements of a booking system remain fundamentally the same – it must be secure, it must be flexible and it must be reliable. That’s exactly what BookingLive is.

To learn more on how to get a secure booking system, contact us today.

The Top Three Integrations of BookingLive

When it comes to online booking systems, there are few with as much freedom as BookingLive. Our software makes it easy for customers to book online, whether it’s via their Smartphone, Tablet or Desktop.

Online businesses expect more than a mere booking system, and that’s why at BookingLive we support more than 30 integrations that help your business reach its potential. From built in customer reviews from Tripadvisor to the useful iCal integration. This allows customers to download the iCal file on the confirmation screen, for the booking to appear on their calendar.

Of course, there’s a remarkable range of integrations supported by BookingLive, but there are a few that stand above the rest.

  • SendGrid

Bundled in to our software as standard, SendGrid is a cloud-based email infrastructure programme, which relieves businesses from spending a lot of their time on maintaining a custom email system.

With SendGrid on your side, you can automate a wide range of emails, as well as track real time analytics, offering an unprecedented look at the scale and success of your email campaigns. Information like opens, click through and bounce rates are right at your fingertips. SendGrid has a huge scalability, making it a fantastic option for businesses with growth in mind.

Automated emails are first set up in BookingLive, along with the desired scheduling. From there, SendGrid ensures that the emails are sent out efficiently, avoiding spam and other filters which may stop your important email from reaching your customers’ inbox.

  • Postcoder

Postcoder comes to us from Allies Computing, and integrates effortlessly with BookingLive’s secure platform to provide an effective and easy way to look up addresses, providing you with accurate results.

That alone is a must have feature, but with Postcoder simplifying the booking, it’s an almost essential tool for any BookingLive customer. Capture correct addresses, improve mailshot conversions and encourage repeat bookings, all with the Postcoder integration and BookingLive – it’s a match made in booking heaven.

  • MailChimp

You might be familiar with the MailChimp name for their extensive sponsoring of popular podcasts, but what you might not know is that with BookingLive’s built in support for MailChimp integration, you can create all kinds of custom mailing lists.

If a customer ticks the ‘Marketing Permission’ box as they place their order, their email will automatically be pushed into a selected mailing list in your MailChimp account. This will then allow you to build your marketing mailing list and create targeted advertising campaigns.

MailChimp’s fantastic pre-designed templates mean that creating those campaigns is easy, and they can be shared anywhere too.

sendgrid     postcoder     Image result for mailchimp

Other integrations

Whilst two of our three most popular integrations focus around emails, that’s just a thin slice of what BookingLive customers can expect from their integrations.

From the mass SMS capabilities of World Text to stunning social media integration with the likes of our Facebook and Twitter plugins, there’s no shortage of ways you can get in touch with your customers.

Once they’ve arrived on your website to book, our payment integrations mean that you can provide your customers with a wide range of secure and trusted payment gateways from the likes of Sagepay, PayPal, WorldPay and many more.

Those bookings can then be automatically exported and calculated in your financial management software with our Sage 50, QuickBooks, FreshBooks and Xero integrations built in.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible with integrations on BookingLive. To learn more about our integrations, click here or join our free demo and see how these intergrations can enhance your bookings and business.

How To Keep Customers Engaged Once They’ve Booked

If you’ve been in business for years, or only just starting up, you know that there’s no thrill quite like seeing a customer book for the very first time. It’s a sure sign that something’s gone right, but the journey doesn’t end there. After the booking, there’s a great deal more you can do to enhance the booking experience.

The relationships you build between your customer and your business are essential, you need to be doing everything you can to not only ensure attendance, but also encourage repeat bookings.

The answer? Three emails: Confirm, Remind & Follow Up. In this article, we’re going to share with you how three simple emails can lead to higher attendances and more repeat bookings, amongst a host of other benefits.

 

Email #1 – The Confirmation Email

A confirmation email is something that’s familiar to everyone who’s booked or purchased something online, but the confirmation email nonetheless serves a vital function. Besides its primary function as a confirmation that a purchase has gone through, it also supplies vital information including booking IDs and contact information if anything should go wrong with their order.

Using BookingLive’s software you’re able to send an automated confirmation email as standard. By visiting your notification settings you can easily create a customised email that takes their booking experience to the next level.

Typically, these tend to be rather dry affairs, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Include a personalised message with ease, drop in special offers to recommended products or simply tell them how excited you are as a company to have them book with you. It’s the little things that really matter in a congested marketplace, so go all out to make your confirmation email special.

 

Email #2 – The Reminder Email

As a business that takes bookings, you’ll be fully aware of the cost and disruption that customers forgetting to turn up for their booking can have on your business.

The solution to that problem? The reminder email. Put simply, as your customers booking date approaches, BookingLive’s online booking system will automatically send them an email reminding them of their booking.

They can also include vital information like an itinerary or travel information, and just like the confirmation email, you can customise it however best you see fit. At BookingLive, we understand the value that a timely reminder email can have.

BookingLive’s built in notification feature allows you to send out automated emails, meaning once you’ve written your reminder email, all you’ve got to do is choose when it gets sent! All emails sent out using our booking software is sent through SendGrid.

 

Email #3 – The Follow up Emailemail-for-blog-copy-2

With your customer’s transaction now fully processed and their time within your business completed, what next?

By sending a follow up email within a few days of the booking’s end, you help cement the relationship between your business and the customer. It’s a gentle reminder that that their business was valued, and in this era of impersonal online transactions, that’s a thing of real value.

These emails can also be used to encourage post-transaction interactions, like leaving a review on Yelp or TripAdvisor, following your business on a social media platform or by offering a special discount code for repeat bookings.

Of course, you don’t want to flood your customers with emails, but with these three simple steps you can dramatically improve the client/business relationship.

It’s just another fantastic feature of our comprehensive online booking platform, one which helps to keep customers coming back time and time again.

 

BookingLive also integrates with different email marketing programmes, like MailChimp. By integrating with Mailchimp you’re  able to build up your marketing mailing list. When a customer’s placing an order they will have the option to click ‘Marketing Permissions’, where their contact details will be pushed into Mailchimp, allowing your marketing mailing list to grow.

The MailChimp integration also means you’re able to track actions, like open and click through rates, so you can adjust your email design to best suit your clientele.

 

If you want to find out about more programmes we integrate with then head over to our integrations page or contact us directly, where a member of our team would be happy to find an integration that fits your needs

FileMaker Booking Systems VS. BookingLive

If your business takes bookings, then you need an online booking platform. It’s an essential part of doing business in 2017, with online booking systems saving your staff time, enabling customers to book around the clock and bringing your company in line with a modern consumers expectations.

Knowing which online booking platform to go with though? That’s the hard part.

There are a number of options on the market, from the barebones to the feature complete, but two of the most popular options are custom built FileMaker booking systems and our own solution, BookingLive. In this guide, we’re going to look at the advantages, and disadvantages of both solutions.

FileMaker Booking Systems: Pros & Cons

For those who don’t know FileMaker, they’re a company who provide the tools required to make custom apps which work seamlessly across a wide range of platforms. Whether that’s the web, iOS, Android, Windows or Mac.

The software can be used to create a wide range of applications, including your online booking system. Here’s the pros and cons of building your own online booking platform:

Pros:

  • Flexible – Because you’re building the platform yourself, you’re in total control over its feature set.
  • Wide plugin support – The range of plugins that support FileMaker mean easier integration and a broader range of functionality
  • Includes starter solutions – A wide range of tutorials and strong community mean that solutions are often relatively easy to find.
  • Drag & drop programming – Simplified programming means most people shouldn’t have a problem creating apps.
  • Built in support for Excel importing – Many businesses manage their bookings via Excel, which makes this feature particularly useful.

Cons:

  • Expensive – An individual license for FileMaker Pro costs $329.00 (around £265) for the base software. The Advanced version of the software will set you back an eye-watering $549.00 (around £444). For software which may not suit your needs, that’s an expensive initial layout.
  • Requires you to build apps yourself – Running a business is time consuming, so do you really have the time to build your own custom booking software? If the answer is no, then FileMaker might not be for you.
  • Coding knowledge required – If you’re uncomfortable coding, testing and launching applications, then FileMaker isn’t for you.
  • Wasted on web-only applications – The scope of FileMaker’s tools mean that developing exclusively for the web is overkill.
  • No support – If something goes wrong with your app, there’s nobody there to help you get it working. This can lead to loss of trust and decreased bookings.

BookingLive: Pros & Cons

BookingLive is our online booking solution, designed and built with years of experience supplying a huge variety of businesses with booking platforms. Free from locked in contracts, our bespoke software offers many configuration options and professional set up and support.

Here are the pros and cons of BooklingLive as a platform for hosting your online bookings:

Pros:

  • Trusted, tried and proven – Thousands of businesses across sectors as varied as travel, education and health have opted to use BookingLive as their online booking solution, and 9 out of 10 would recommend it.
  • Loaded with features – BookingLive has evolved over time to better fit the ever changing market of online commerce. That’s meant that over the years, we’ve added much demanded, premium features like a responsive design to work across all platforms and screens, as well as integration with social networks for booking through Facebook.
  • Secure payment support – BookingLive is compatible with some of the most popular secure payment gateways in the world, such as; PayPal, Safe Pay, WorldPay and many, many more.
  • No assembly required – Simply sign up and let our team get your online booking platform set up for you. Deep customisation options mean you can tailor the booking experience for your clients and a huge range of plugins mean compatibility with almost anything you can imagine.
  • Expert support as standard – All BookingLive plans come with support as standard, so if you’re experiencing an issue with your booking platform or don’t understand a feature, we’re on hand to help.

Cons:

  • Monthly subscription – Most businesses enjoy the flexibility that a rolling monthly subscription offers their business, though some may prefer a lump sum.
  • Externally hosted software – Because BookingLive isn’t priced as licensed software, we do not allow copies of our software to be sold for use on private servers. For various commercial reasons we’d have to license out some of our core infrastructure systems, which would be both expensive and complicated.


So if BookingLive is the Online Booking solution you’ve been looking for then contact us us today, where a member of our sales team would be more than happy to help meet your needs! Or sign up to our weekly webinar to find out more about our product!

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Four Ways Online Booking Will Boost Your Business

Sometimes the old ways are still the best. Shaking hands, good customer service and striking deals in person are all essential tools of the modern business, just as they have been for centuries. However there are some tools which should be left in the past.

For many of us, our trusty appointment book remains a vital part of the functioning of our business, but what if it could be improved? Technology has alleviated much of the stress that micromanaging a business involves, so why not your booking process?

Here at BookingLive, we’ve seen how beneficial an online booking system can be to businesses of all shapes and sizes, but what are the five ways online booking will help boost your business.

  • Time Saved for Customers and Staff

Without an online booking system in place, booking happens in one of a few ways: either they book in person, over the phone or via email. Whichever way your customer chooses to book, the process is a time consuming one. Scheduling bookings this way takes valuable time away from your staff, requiring back and forth on dates and times, as well in regards to payment.

By operating an online booking system, you’re automating the entire process. Customers can only book dates which have spaces available and pay up front for their booking, requiring no intervention by your staff. It’s the fast, simple way for your customers to book, and frees up your staff to focus on other tasks around your business – perfect!Features of an online booking system

  • Never Missing a Customer

One of the biggest opportunities that online booking platforms offer comes from out-of-office-hours booking. Booking over the phone can be great for a
customer, but it requires the stars to align, making it rather limited. By booking online, your customers can book as and when it suits them, rather than bending to your office hours.

Online booking also means that multiple customers can book simultaneously and from any internet-enabled platform they have to hand, whether that’s a smartphone at midnight or a desktop at 3pm.

  • Increased Revenue with Upselling

Any business will tell you that the key to growth is turning a customer buying one thing once into a customer buying multiple things often, which is why we built BookingLive with upselling support out of the box.

Before your customer confirms their booking, you can present them with a limitless range of options for expanding their purchase. Whether that’s special discounts on multi-buys, extra equipment or anything else, BookingLive enables you to offer it. Our customers have seen an increase of over 40% when offering related products and services alongside their primary bookings, can you afford to miss out on that kind of revenue boost?

  • Boost Customer Engagement with a Built-In Blogging Platform

Writing a blog is a fantastic way to get customers engaged with your business, and can really help push you up the search rankings. BookingLive has a built in blogging platform, which lets you create fully integrated and customisable blog posts with ease.

Regular news pieces and updates regarding events, products and stock help to build a relationship between you and your customers, earn valuable legitimacy and boost sales.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about how our online booking software could boost your business, feel free to contact us today or sign up for a free demo!

Top Tips to Grow your Small Activity Centre

The beauty of a small business lies in the ease in which changes can be made. Alterations to your strategy can be tried out with little by way of dramatic consequence. However, running a small business also brings many challenges with it too.

That small & nimble nature means that growth is absolutely essential and tied tightly to sales. For small activity centres that means finding more customers to fill your activities. And with the nature of small businesses, we know how tough this can be!

It’s no secret that the internet has presented a huge opportunity for small activity centres to grow, but how exactly do you take advantage of it?

1. Make full use of social media

We’re sure that you don’t need to be told just how important social media has become in growing small businesses, but for the uninitiated, it can be a confusing world out there.

Social media allows people to connect to your business in unprecedented ways via comments, videos, reviews and more. It also allows anyone looking at your content to instantly share it with friends and family, potentially turning a reach of hundreds into thousands

If you’re about to start a tour company or small activity centre, planning your social media campaigns should be of high priority. With that said, it’s important to note that the big two social networks (Facebook and Twitter) both have their distinct advantages and uses.

Facebook has the much more complete feature set for a small activity centre. You can post statuses about upcoming events,facebook_circle_green populate your page’s
profile with useful information, allow reviews, share videos and even build in online booking software right into the page. It’s a great way for potential customers to learn what your activities are like, as well as to ask any questions they might have. With Facebook’s comprehensive advertising solutions you can directly target customers who might be interested in booking one of your activities

Meanwhile, Twitter is fantastic for getting the word out about your business. Instant updates regarding meeting times, location and any other information is Twitter’s speciality, but it’s equally as useful for sharing promotional information. What you won’t find is twitter_circle_greenthe comprehensive brand support that Facebook offers.

Other social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest or Flickr place an explicit emphasis on photography as a means of storytelling. Once again, this is an excellent way of promoting the experience aspect of your activities, but shouldn’t be treated as your primary brand outlet online.

So, if you’ve asked yourself “how do I promote my small business”, the answer lies somewhere between the social networks listed above.


2. Move to an online booking solution

If you haven’t already done so, making the move to an online booking system like BookingLive can be very beneficial to small activity business. Why?

There are multiple answers to that question, but the most simple is convenience – for both you and your customers.

As a small tour business, the amount of staff you can employ is limited, which means a good portion of your job becomes managing their time effectively.

Traditional booking methods require a member of staff to manage your phone lines or regularly check the businesses emails for booking requests, therefore taking time away from their regular duties. It’s a system that’s rife with inefficiencies and very prone to human error.

BookingLive meanwhile automates the whole system, with customers able to direct from your website, paying securely as they complete their order. With our booking system, you can see availability levels for your activities and tours, ensuring you’re never overbooked.

For your customers too, online booking systems are vastly preferred, with around 40% of activities and being booked online. Automatic support for mobile devices means your customers can book from any mobile platform, and the online nature of BookingLive software means that it can be completed at any time, with out of hour’s bookings helping to increase sales.

What does that mean for you? Well, it means staff making the most of their working hours and happier customers, not to mention much more efficient online tour marketing.

 

3. Don’t be afraid of discounts

When you’re operating a small tour business or activity centre, it’s likely that profit is one of your main priorities.  Of course, that’s perfectly natural for a small business, but you shouldn’t be afraid of giving up a little of that profit in favour of getting customers through the door. Voucher sites and group discount websites have become one of the best ways to market a small business, as well as a great way of getting new customers through the door and generate buzz.

As a tour and activity business, you’ll be firmly aware that word of mouth generates a huge amount of business, and a successful event not only brings short term gain, but also longer term success. Limited time vouchers encourage customers who might be on the fence about signing up for your service to take the plunge.

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Linking back to our first two tips for growing your tour business, vouchers are an excellent way to boost social engagement with potential customers feeling they’re getting a great deal. Additionally, online booking systems like BookingLive have full support for vouchers, letting you generate them automatically and setting things like maximum number of uses before expiry or how long they’re to be active.

It’s just smart tour marketing strategy, and shouldn’t be ignored.